The Five Scariest Episodes in TV History

Inbred hicks and killer clowns and talking dolls, oh my! Here, in honor of Halloween, are our picks for TV's five scariest episodes ever. We were going to go with a list of strictly Halloween-themed episodes, but those usually aren't all that scary. But you could still watch these particular episodes on Saturday night to get in the ghoulish spirit of the holiday.

1) "HOME" -- THE X-FILES, SEASON 4

Without a doubt the most frightening, most disturbing episode in the entirety of The X-Files' many-season run, "Home" is terrifying because it doesn't really traffic in the supernatural--it could be real. Well, sure, it's highly unlikely that there would actually be a murderous family of insanely inbred brothers who keep impregnating their limbless mother who they keep on a cart under the bed and killing the deformed offspring (that's really what the episode is about!) in modern-day America, but there aren't any aliens or ghosts or telekinetic weirdos lurking the periphery to firmly place the episode beyond the realm of possibility. Directed by Kim Manners, "Home" is so mesmerizingly repulsive, unbearably suspenseful, and shockingly dark that it's no wonder Fox was famously reluctant to ever rerun the episode after its initial airing. A true stunner.

2) "LIVING DOLL" -- THE TWILIGHT ZONE, SEASON 5

As the title would suggest, the inanimate children's toy that shows up at Telly Savalas' house one day isn't actually as inanimate as one would hope. Though just about as campy and silly an episode as The Twilight Zone ever made, there's still something wonderful and terrifying about the wicked Talking Tina, a cutesy doll who promises to murder her owner's cruel step-father in a sing-songy tinkle of a voice. Perhaps we find it kind of funny these days because it spawned a series of seriously campy imitators--from the Child's Play movie series (replace Tina with Chuckie) to The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" installment "Clown Without Pity," about a murder-minded Krusty the Klown doll. But at its core, "Living Doll" is a childhood nightmare--that our toys might come to life at night and not be as nice as we'd thought--made horribly manifest. She's Talking Tina, and she's going to creep the hell out of you.

3) FIRST HALF OF IT -- MINISERIES, 1990

Based on a Stephen King book of the same name, It definitely has its moments of bad TV movie lameness. Particularly the closing battle climax, that comes complete with asthma inhaler and giant spider. But other parts of it--the parts that explore the unknowable horrors of childhood, the Its that kids are convinced are lurking somewhere, waiting to get them--truly startle and scare. Just the idea of something terrible and mysterious--be it Pennywise the Clown or some other awful manifestation--waiting in a storm drain, luring children to their doom, is enough to send shivers up our spines, even in the relative safety of adulthood. In his novel, King was investigating something big and universal about childhood, an idea that though much of the big, unknown world can seem exciting to young people, a lot of it can feel pretty menacing and dangerous too. The TV miniseries captures this haunting theme best in its first half, when the characters are children forced to deal with a local horror in their small Maine town (the heart of King Country). Both melancholy and eerie, It is a chilling embodiment of what scared us as kids, and what still scares us now.

4) "HUSH" -- BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SEASON 4

Noted more often for its technical mastery than its outright scare-factor, "Hush" is writer/director/show-creator Joss Whedon's almost-completely-dialogue-free masterpiece. The image of ghoulishly smiling demons, wielding heart-gouging knives, floating toward a victim who tries to scream for help but cannot (due to the monsters' magicks) lingered with us long after the end credits had rolled. The idea of being robbed of our most visceral defense against a baddie--to just scream bloody murder--is sheer terror indeed. That Whedon pulled off such a ghastly motif with an artist's grace and innovation is just the cherry on top of a dread-filled sundae. "Hush" is in the top five of best Buffy episodes ever, and certainly the series' scariest.

5) "NIGHTMARE" -- THE OUTER LIMITS, SEASON 1

As much about the horrors of the military-industrial complex as it is about the awfuls of torture, "Nightmare" presents us with a group of Earthling soldiers captured on a hostile alien planet. Subjected to all manner of torment, both physical and psychological, the soldiers begin to turn on one another as survival seems less and less likely. This being The Outer Limits, of course there is a society-skewing twist ending that makes you think more than shriek. But the moments before are gut-churning and harrowing. The particular Limits explored in this episode are those of human compassion and endurance. "Don't touch meeee!!"

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I was scared to death by that episode of Psych with Mr.Yang
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Oh goodness yes! That was scary.
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I would have mentioned "May The Giant Be With You" from Twin Peaks. The episode starts out weird with the giant but just gets terrifying at the end with Ronette's dream. I made the wonderful mistake of watching it right before bed...
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"Shatterday" in the 1980s Twilight Zone remake series was excellent. Freaked the daylights out of me, and all it is, is Bruce Willis screaming into a phone.
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One Series that everyone tends to forget is "Friday The 13th: The TV Series".



It was fantastic for its time & place, and one of its truly scary Episodes was called "Scarecrow"...wherein a Scarecrow in the field of a farm came to life and murdered people when called upon to do so.



Chilling ! Terror filled ! And I've never trusted a scarecrow since then !!
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blink from doctor who!
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"It" was one of the scariest by far that was on regular TV
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I remember them all with extreme fondness.
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Hush was a really kool episode, but the scariest one for me was the one where the skool's swimmers are turning into sea monsters. That one made me cry, lol.
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Ok list, never seen #4 or 5 though.
I'm quite surprised that other people mentioned the Doctor Who episode "Blink". That or "Midnight" definitely could have made this list.
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Every time The Obama speaks on TV scares the hell out of me.
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The scariest show I ever remember watch ing on television was a teleplay about a daydreaming little girl in a school classroom gazing out of the window and saw a murder. the murderer then, saw her and the story took off from there. I wouldn't look out the windows in school after that show...
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Actually, the most disturbing moment I've ever seen on TV is the murder at the beginning of the first episode of this season of Dexter. The idea of just coming home normally one day and stepping into some serial killer's murder ritual, made scarier by it's plausibility.

But I second the notion that three camera style sitcoms are more terrifying than any horror show could ever be. That no matter what happens to you, nobody's life ever moves forward, and all emotional situations can be distilled to random pop culture references and lame one liners, and gotten over by a flashback montage.
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lololol. These people appearently haven't seen 'American Idol'. There's some scary stuff on that.
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Any episode of "The World According to Jim" is scarier to me the any on this list. Hush was fantastic, but more clever than scary. Home was very scary.
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Actually, the whole damn list really screams "half-assed". I'm not sure if the writer hasn't seen a lot of tv or just didn't feel like spending much time on the list (which is why it's a five list instead of a ten or twenty), but the complete lack of spirit shows.
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This list is terrible. First off, IT shouldn't even qualify since it was a short mini-series (basically a movie) rather than a tv show. Second, the other selections are pretty weak. Living Doll wasn't even the scariest Twilight Zone ep (things like Mirror Image, Perchance to Dream, and the Hitch-hiker were all much more frightening but even those probably aren't the scariest). And Hush was certainly a cool episode, but it was more comical than anything else. Not to mention Home was meh. The X-Files did a helluva lot better than that. I'm impressed that somebody mentioned "Blink", though, from the new Dr Who. It was the first of the new Whos that I had seen (because I was basically avoiding the series up until then and it caught me with the opening minutes before I realized what it was). The whole Dr Who series has an insane amount of freaky stuff in it. The episode with the gas-masked children was also killer (since they were basically smarter zombies with a kind of hive mind), as was the library (Forest of the Dead?) where you blinked and somebody went missing (not to mention the human faces on random objects and being chased around by a disjointed Scooby Doo villain =x). Plus it's surprising to not see a single episode from a horror tv show listed. I know that Tales from the Crypt was more gore than scares (although it definitely had some good chilling episodes), but Monsters, etc, had some definitely freaky crap (Holly's House, for instance. That doll would make Talking Tina wet her pants).
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Let me reiterate the opinion of those who mentioned Doctor Who's "Blink". I watched this episode with a friend and we both ended up shouting at the TV, we were that emotionally caught up. A brilliantly written piece of TV and easily among the scariest stories in recent history. It's certainly helped by the fact that this is a Doctor light episode so our heroine (Sally Sparrow) is guest star and therefore always in real danger since unlike the regular cast, she isn't coming back next week. Also the way the mystery unfolds and games it plays with the concepts of time travel make this an especially intelligent story.



Twin Peaks. There were so many frightening moments, but Maddy's murder was the first time I was seeing something on TV that I couldn't bear to watch and yet couldn't bear to turn away (just in case she got away, but you know how that turned out...). You want to go back to Missoula, Montana!!!! (Yikes.)



And from the rich Twilight Zone canon might I pitch "It's a Good Life"? For those of you who have seen it, I have only to say one thing: jack-in-the-box. God, that disturbed me when I first saw it.
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"Babylon" episode's from Carnivale, it was so scary...
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definately Supernatural and Criminal Minds need to be there. The creepiest Supernatural episode was The Benders..and they were mere humans. My creepiest Criminal Minds episode was Bloodline, another disturbing family...
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Good but woefully incomplete list like you guys said Supernatural and Criminal Minds to say the least should be up there and nothing from Poltergiest the Legacy.
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This list is good, but incomplete> Here's a better list: http://www.examiner.com/x-25552-Nashville-TV-Examiner~y2009m10d30-Televisions-Top-10-Scary-Moments
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They seriously need some Supernatural and Criminal minds listed up there too
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Supernatural episode Family Remains! Sooo freakin scary!
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The only one I have watched was the Buffy one. And I could call it intriguing and interesting due to it's uncommon storyline and approach. But definitely not scary.. sorry..
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Ummm what about Twin Peaks??? Maddy's (Laura's look-a-like cousin) murder at the hands of Killer BOB should be on the list, and in my opinion #1. And that's just one off the top of my head. The series had many moments that could easily top others on top of this list. These tv.com lists really suck!
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I signed in just to echo complaints about the lack of Twin Peaks on this list. So many moments, I can't pick just one.
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aha, here is the scene I was talking about, now if this isn't scary, nothing is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B5pE1DEHyk
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bit surprised not seeing Twin Peaks on there, surely the scene with Bob jumping out from behind the couch and crawling towards I've forgot who it was is the scariest moment ever, the one my friends talk about the most at least :)
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Hush FTW
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Hush belongs there.
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OK...the last few minutes battle in IT is stupid...but yes, the rest of that miniseries is masterful and frightening.

I would argue that "It's A Good Life" is scarier than "Living Doll", but the moment of "My name is Talky Tina....and I don't like youuuu" is pretty damned chilling.
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The episode from Sapphire and Steel set in a deserted gas station should have been included!! Sooo scary and atmospheric !!!
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I remember as a child I thought IT was VERY scary, just the idea of clowns being mean... I swear I still don't like clowns!
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IT scared me when I was younger. My mom showed it to me when I was quite young.
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@hemingwaykitten - the first few episodes of Supernatural were indeed quite scary; I thought the water monster that drown a whole family was really creepy, although about 1/3 a way through season one they started watering it down to make it less scary (which is okay; I still love the show). Doctor Who definitely should make the list, the zombie kid with the gas mask for a face who kept calling out for "mummy" was creepy as hell, as was the show about the evil angel statues that came after you when you weren't looking at them. Buffy as scary? well I haven't seen "Hush" so I can't form an opinion of it, but none of the episodes I've seen were at all in the horror genre; at least not enough to make it to the top five (but again I haven't seen "Hush" so I can't comment on that specific episode). "Home" has to be the scariest non-movie experience I've ever had, so I agree with that one, but X-files did have other scary moments, I remember having nightmares about the "lock ness monster" episode where it ate Skully's dog and they were stranded in a lake, and also the forest bugs one that someone else brought up.
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"It" was really scary but "hush"? not so much
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I agree with AnnaLinins & SaraKinney, Twin Peaks should have had an episode on here. I remember watching it as a teenager and being completely freaked out. Glad to see "Home" get its due. LOVED Buffy (and everything else Joss Whedon does) but not sure I agree with the inclusion of "Hush" on this list. Great episode, I just don't ever remember being scared by it. Which is also why I have no problem with there being no Supernatural episodes on here. Cool? Yes. Scary? Not so much?
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The "Hush" Buffy episode is one of tv's best moments ever, true genius. That X-Files episode was indeed one of the CREEPIEST things I've ever seen ... I think it damaged me, lol, and I saw it as an adult.
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glad to see "hush" in this list. and yes, that home episode of the x-files was... wow. couldn't believe it was on network tv. its more disturbing and scary than 99% of the crap that gets released in the movie theaters these days.
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i love twin peaks
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Didn't you people watch Twin Peaks?
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Hush was so scary !
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supernatural isn't scary at all, i just looks cool, i even never think supernatural is horror, but still love the series :)
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Apparently, no one here has watched Hex on BBC America.
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I think "The Playground" from The Ray Bradbury Theater, deserves a place among these other gems. One of his best stories.
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how come there aren't any supernatural episodes in this list? season 1 had some pretty scary episodes!
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It would have been better had you counted down from 5 to 1, instead of 1 to 5...!
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I have to agree with most of these. Espesially Twilight Zone's "Living Doll". To this day I cannot watch anything where toys come to life. Even Toy Story had moments that freeked me out. All because of that Twilight Zone episode that a babysitter let me watch when I was little.
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i saw the home episode of x files last week. that is disturbing yet on level with reality. i think that's what scares people the most.
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@z33kk: Presto Boy is right! IT was originally aired as a 2 part miniseries. The Stephen King story was twisted around and they really had to stretch to make it 4 hours long. I believe that's why the first half of IT is so terrifying, and the second half just kinda drops the ball. @charlottedotcom: Supernatural is not this list because it is The Hardy Boys of its day. It's hard to be scared of a show with pretty boys that make girls squeal. The writing just is not there, the show is not in this league.

More than one episode of The X-Files scared the daylights out of me. Definitely "Home," it was soooooo gross. I would probably nominate the two episodes about shape-shifting, liver-eating Eugene Tooms: they were utterly creepy and kept me up after watching them. There's another X-Files about ancient lightning bugs living deep inside the oldest redwoods; when the trees are cut, the bugs are released and swarm any human, turning them into a cocoon of future food during the night. Trapped without fuel or light with the sun going down in a redwood forest and killer bugs after you...aaaaaggggghhhh!!!!! That one STILL scares me!

I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, so "Home" was far more gross than scary to me! Yeehaw y'all!
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